A few weeks ago, I had the honor of accompanying some of our health teachers while they taught in Nakaale village. One of our missionary associates, Leah Hopp, is presently on furlough in Canada, but during her absence she has hired and trained local women to continue her work. Five days a week, women go out in pairs to various surrounding villages to teach about washing hands, HIV, malaria, available vaccinations, basic hygiene, what to do if your child is dehydrated or has a fever, breastfeeding ,when to introduce solid foods and a myriad of other daily living topics.
The two women I joined, Achia Rose and Lopatan Vicky, were very gracious when I asked if I could join them. They changed the location so that Carmel wouldn’t be out under the hot sun for too long of a walk. Rose carried Carmel on her back always adjusting to make sure she was shaded by a piece of flowing fabric. Motherhood runs deep.
When we arrived in Nakaale village, we ducked under the entrance gate, weaved through the narrow pathways between tree fences calling all the while for whomever was around. Rose and Vicky gathered all the present inhabitants with a friendly greeting and admonition to come to “prayers”. I sat with the spectators in the shade of an elevated grain basket the size of a smart car. Everyone was drawn to Carmel, exclaiming how white she is and all vying for a smile.
Vicky and Rose came armed with a large canvas scroll that depicts the various concepts. Vicky stood before us and unfurled the scroll. She skillfully walked through each page asking questions of the group and making jokes as she went along. I am still learning their sense of humor, it is usually quite dark and something like what we call anti-jokes in America. The loudest laugh was instigated by someone responding to the question, “What do you do if your child has a fever in the night?” with, “You leave them till morning and get a good night’s sleep.” Maybe their use of irony is simply beyond my threshold. Or maybe in order to survive their daily brush with suffering, they must be able to laugh at it.
Rose finished the teaching with two songs and a prayer. Then, we remained. Rose and Vicky made small talk with the neighbors about the harvest, the health of relatives and the weather. I wonder if our reflex in America to hollowly ask about the weather is rooted in a time when it actually mattered. Here, the two preceding weeks of extreme dry heat meant that the sorghum bloomed with few seeds, much maize spoiled on the stalk and the roads were passable. The good comes with the bad.
When we left Nakaale village, we were thanked profusely for coming and teaching. I too, was thankful to be in the audience. It is too easy to remain tucked away in my house, caring for my child, feeding my family and populating spreadsheets, our neighbors becoming merely a part of the setting of life. What a joy to fellowship with them, witness a successful outreach entirely manned by Karimojong and to see their immediate love for Carmel. May God be glorified in the mundane and the grand.